When Andy Hertzfeld joined the Macintosh team, he got a briefing from Bud Tribble,
the other software designer, about the huge amount of work that still needed to be done.
Jobs wanted it finished by January 1982, less than a year away.
"That's crazy," Hertzfeld said. "There's no way."
Tribble said that Jobs would not accept any contrary facts.
"The best way to describe the situation is a term from Star Trek," Tribble explained.
"Steve has a reality distortion field."
When Hertzfeld looked puzzled, Tribble elaborated.
"In his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything.
It wears off when he's not around, but it makes it hard to have realistic schedules."
Tribble recalled that he adopted the phrase from the "Menagerie" episodes of Star Trek,
"in which the aliens create their own new world through sheer mental force."
He meant the phrase to be a compliment as well as a caution:
"It was dangerous to get caught in Steve's distortion field,
but it was what led him to actually be able to change reality."
At first Hertzfeld thought that Tribble was exaggerating,
but after two weeks of working with Jobs, he became a keen observer of the phenomenon.
"The reality distortion field was a confounding melange of a charismatic rhetorical style,
indomitable will, and eagerness to bend any fact to fit the purpose at hand," he said.
There was little that could shield you from the force, Hertzfeld discovered.
"Amazingly, the reality distortion field seemed to be effective even if you were acutely aware of it.
We would often discuss potential techniques for grounding it,
but after a while most of us gave up, accepting it as a force of nature."
After Jobs decreed that the sodas in the office refrigerator be replaced by Odwalla organic orange and carrot juices,
someone on the team had T-shirts made.
"Reality Distortion Field," they said on the front, and on the back, "It's in the juice!"